To make a trade work and keep the Kings under the cap, Columbus would have to keep some of Gaborik's remaining salary. "Because they could only take 50% we were within $50,000 of making it," Lombardi said.
Lombardi acquired Gaborik on March 5, and if the rest isn't quite history, it illustrates the maneuvering necessary to sustain excellence in a salary-cap system.
Without Gaborik, whose nine goals is tops among playoff goal scorers, the Kings wouldn't have made it to the
The Kings are seeking their second
Dynasties like the
The rise of the Kings and Blackhawks from obscurity to the upper echelon is a credit to the work done by Lombardi, Blackhawks GM
"Everybody when they got a chance to play for the Blackhawks, for any player it's great opportunity," Chicago winger
"I'm sure the Kings are a great organization also. They did an excellent job the last few years. They did it three times in a row. It's just amazing these two teams are battling for the West again."
Both teams have experienced many bumps on the road back to prosperity.
The Blackhawks missed the playoffs from 2003 through 2008 and lost in the 2009 conference finals before ending a 49-year Cup drought in 2010. They were so squeezed by salary-cap constraints that they had to part with about a dozen players, but they rebuilt around prospects and prevailed again last season.
The Kings missed the playoffs from 2003 through 2009 and lost in the first round in 2010 and 2011 before winning the franchise's first Cup title in 2012. Like the Blackhawks, the Kings' strategy was to draft and develop well and trade assets to fill holes. Both found gems in the draft, with Chicago taking Norris Trophy winner
In Game 1, the Kings dressed 12 players they had drafted — some, like
"They're similar to us. They've got a nucleus of guys that are similar to our guys and they went through it the same way," Lombardi said. "They went through hard times to get a top pick like Toews. We get a Doughty. Kane's a top pick."
"Then it's a confidence thing. Just playing well, winning. If you win, you get confidence," he said. "It's a culture change, yes, but it's confidence, winning, putting it all together, knowing that we have the team and not worrying about anything else or any other team."